The announcement by the Chancellor that the Government will now hold a Spending Round in September for the upcoming financial year is an opportunity to deliver certainty for councils.
While it is good news for councils that the announcement will be earlier this year, it is critical that we make the case for investing in local government.
It was great that the first meeting our new Secretary of State Robert Jenrick had after the very first Cabinet meeting was here at the LGA. I have already had a number of follow-up conversations with Robert, and with Luke Hall, Local Government Minister, and their team; Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, and Rishi Sunak, Chief Secretary to the Treasury. We are seeking further meetings with ministers across Whitehall departments, and I and all my colleagues at the LGA will be working hard over the next few weeks to ensure the views of councils are at the very top of ministers’ in-trays.
The main message that we are taking into these meetings, and the message that the LGA will be taking to government as we approach the Spending Round, is councils need certainty. I know you will all be starting your budget-setting process for the next financial year, and to do this properly you will need to know how much money you will have. We also need to make the case for investing in local government.
We can best achieve that by highlighting all the work councils do in their local areas to improve lives and support businesses, helping contribute to the national economy and helping our communities to thrive.
We have a great story to tell, for instance in education, where council-maintained schools perform better than academies, or in public health, where every pound invested in council-run services relieves pressure on the NHS. These are just two examples of the very many things councils do to make a difference.
And our residents recognise this. Our research shows that three-quarters of council services have improved in the past 10 years. It also shows that people trust their local council and councillors to make the right decisions for them and their families.
At the same time, councils have saved more than £1 billion of taxpayers’ money by sharing services. Given the opportunity, councils can do even more to support their communities, delivering improved outcomes for people while making savings for the public purse.
The challenge for all of us over the next few weeks and months is to make this case to government. We need to ensure ministers know about the homes we are building, the brighter futures we are providing for all our children, our solutions to the adult social care crisis, the opportunities we’re creating for new jobs and economic growth and how we support people to live the lives they want.
So that is what I will be telling government in the weeks ahead as we prepare for the Spending Round – that councils are doing amazing and essential work in difficult circumstances and that is why the Government should work with us to empower us to do more.
With financial certainty, councils can be depended upon to deliver even better outcomes for our residents; healthier, more highly educated and safer communities; and to protect our most vulnerable people.
Everyone working in local government is ambitious for their local communities. We are the leaders of place that make a big difference every single day to people’s lives. As the central message in our annual conference report highlighted, ‘Councils Can’ if government invests in us.